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Pens @ Lightning Preview: Fleury to start in goal

Penguins Game Day

Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-1) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (5-2-1)
When: October 27 2010 | Where: St. Pete Times Forum
The Penguins meet the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time in the young season Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. The matchup will pit the co-winners of the 2009-10 Rocket Richard Trophy, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby, against one another. The two are already top-five in goals

Morning Skate Update

Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury will get the start in goal for Pittsburgh tonight, making his second start in three games. The plan going into the road trip was for Fleury to start two of three games and head coach Dan Bylsma will not divert from his plan, despite another strong performance from Brent Johnson Saturday night.
Brent Johnson is a good bet to start Friday night at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Comrie – Letestu – Malkin
Cooke – Talbot – Kennedy
Rupp – Adams – Asham
Martin – Letang
Orpik – Lovejoy
Goligoski – Engelland
Scratches: Eric Godard, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Staal


The Pens travel to Tampa Bay for their third straight road contest, having collected 3 points in two games at Nashville and St. Louis. Pittsburgh is in the midst of a stretch that sees them play seven of eight away from the CONSOL Energy Center.
Wednesday’s game has the makings of a high-scoring affair. Tampa Bay leads the NHL in goals per game (3.4) and is fourth in power play efficiency (26.3 percent), and has the league’s leading scorer in Steven Stamkos (8G-7A). Pittsburgh isn’t far behind, sixth in scoring (3.0) and 14th on the man-advantage (16.3 percent).
Both teams are coming off losses. Tampa Bay dropped a 4-3 decision to a very strong Nashville squad. Pittsburgh, again stifled by Jaroslav Halak, gained a point in an overtime loss to St. Louis last Saturday.
Tied at 11 points, both squads have chance to take at least a share of the lead in the East. The Montreal Canadiens (5-2-1-11 pts) face the New York Islanders and can hold their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference with a win.


Fair to say that Wednesday’s game will feature two of the league’s top-five players. Since splitting the goal scoring trophy of a season ago, Stamkos and Crosby have continued their hot streaks into the new season.
Stamkos is currently leading in just about everything. His 15 points are first in the NHL (5 players tied with 11). His eight goals are tied with Patrick Sharp of Chicago for the first in the NHL. Stamkos is also a power play specialist, landing 6 points (3G-3A) for the Lightning’s man-advantage unit.
Crosby who is heating up, is hardly behind. His 11 points (6G-5A) lead the Penguins and are tied for second in the NHL. Crosby is fifth in the NHL in goals and his scoring outburst has coincided with the Penguins’ recent 4-0-1 run. He also leads the Penguins in shots on goal (43).
Similarly, as Stamkos goes, so go the Lightning. Tampa Bay is 5-0-0 when Stamkos scores, 0-2-1 when he doesn’t.


Tampa Bay was one of the most active teams during the offseason. The result so far has been a much improved offensive unit that leads the Southeast Division and is in the battle for tops in the Eastern Conference.
Businessman Jeff Vinik acquired the team from its controversial former owners Len Barrie and Oren Kroules. An all-time player with the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman came to Tampa this summer in his first stint as an NHL General Manager. Guy Boucher joins in what is also his first season as an NHL head coach.
Simon Gagne came to Tampa Bay this summer as part of a move to clear salary space. Defenseman Andres Meszaros went to Philadelphia in the deal. Pavel Kubina, Dan Ellis, Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Teddy Purcell are also new to the Lightning this season.
The results thus far have been excellent. Tampa Bay is suddenly one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams and have momentarily taken the Southeast lead from incumbent Washington.


Pittsburgh gets closer to a full lineup tonight. Arron Asham is set to return from a preseason shoulder injury and make his debut against Tampa Bay.
Asham is coming off one of his best years production-wise (10G-14A-126PIM). The 32 year-old winger will start the game on the fourth line with Mike Rupp and Craig Adams.


There is a good chance tonight’s game will be won or lost in the success of the Penguins’ special teams units. Pittsburgh is now fifth overall in both goals and goals against.
The power play has dried up in two games against good defensive units (no power play goals against St. Louis or Nashville), and is clicking at just above 16 percent.
The penalty kill, still without two of its top three killers in Staal and Michalek, is 19th in the NHL (82.4 percent success).
Tampa Bay is excelling in odd-man situations. The Lightning are fourth in the NHL in power play conversion (26.3 percent). Despite being 26th in overall team defense (3.4 goals against per game), they are 5th in the NHL on the PK (88.9 percent).


Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson remain in a regular rotation for the team’s starting role, though Fleury is still being billed as the ‘long-term starter.
Brent Johnson has been spectacular for the Penguins, posting a 4-0-1 record in his five starts. His 1.39 GAA and .951 SV% are top-five numbers among all NHL goalies.
Marc-Andre Fleury got his first win of the year against Nashville and brought his line down to 3.25-.859 in the process.
Fleury has excelled against Tampa Bay in recent years and will get the start tonight. He posted a .929 save percentage in four games against the Lightning last season (1.76 GAA in those games). He is 7-3-0 in his last ten starts against Tampa Bay (1.90 GAA).
Tampa Bay has similarly rotated their goaltenders, splitting time between Mike Smith and new entry Dan Ellis.
Neither goalie has been spectacular. Ellis is 1-2-1 (3.67-.870) since coming from Nashville over the summer. Smith has posted a line of 3.12-.884, slightly better than Ellis, while winning each of his four starts.
Part of their statistical problems might be attributed to their team defense, which is allowing 3.4 goals against per game, fifth-worst in the league.


Tampa Bay enters the game with a number of question marks. Forward Simon Gagne, Tampa’s marquee free agent acquisition this summer, has been placed on 7-day injured reserve.
Also out is center Dominic Moore (groin). Brett Clark (wrist), Mattias Ohlund (knee) and Matt Smaby (illness) all practiced Tuesday, but none are expected to make the start against Pittsburgh.
Center Blair Jones was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL to help fill out the Lightning roster.
The Pens are down to two injured now, as Asham is set to return to action tonight. Zbynek Michalek remains out with an upper body injury. Jordan Staal remains shelved while recovering from an infection in his foot.
Both players are skating and practicing with the team.
With the return of Brooks Orpik over the weekend and Asham tonight, Andrew Hutchinson and Eric Tangradi were returned to AHL duty in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. The Penguins active roster is at 22.

Penguins Ranks

GOALS PER GAME: 3.0 | 5th
GOALS AGAINST: 2.2 | 5th
POWER PLAY PCT: 16.3 | 14th
PENALTY KILL PCT: 82.4 | 19th

Penguins Lineup

Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Comrie – Letestu – Malkin
Cooke – Talbot – Kennedy
Rupp – Adams – Asham
Martin – Letang
Orpik – Lovejoy
Goligoski – Engelland
Starting Goaltender: Marc Andre Fleury

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